When you talk about today’s indispensable jazz pianists, one name leads every list—Fred Hersch. Indeed, in the pantheon of jazz royalty, Fred is one of the kings, after Keith Jarrett who is arguably our leading exponent of solo jazz piano. For over forty years, he has continued to invent the standard jazz repertoire unlike anybody else, which helps explain his ten Grammy nominations (including two this year) not to mention 52 recordings as composer, bandleader, and theatrical conceptualist/innovator of individualistic jazz—a “jazz for the 21st Century” (New York Times). No one has said it better than his fellow pianist Jason Moran: “Fred at the piano is like LeBron James on the basketball court—he’s perfection.” The title of his latest solo CD is Open Book, a recording that one critic called “a recording that makes it seem as if Fred Hersch is the finest jazz pianist in the world.” And the album’s title is serendipity itself: Herch’s memoir Good Things Happen Slowly (Random House, 2017) tells the fascinating story of how a gay Jewish kid from Cincinnati broke into the highest reaches of New York’s jazz scene—where he still reigns.
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